April Is Alcohol Awareness Month

Help for today, hope for tomorrow

Each April, the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, Inc. (NCADD) sponsors Alcohol Awareness Month to “increase public awareness and understanding, reduce stigma and encourage local communities to focus on alcoholism and alcohol-related issues.”

a friend looking concerned

The theme for 2019 is “Help for Today, Hope for Tomorrow,” which focuses on educating people about the treatment and prevention of alcohol abuse and addiction, particularly among our youth. Parents play an important role in giving kids a better understanding of the impact that alcohol can have on their lives.

Persons who abuse alcohol or other drugs are more likely to develop medical problems related to their substance use, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. These individuals tend to have more frequent inpatient admissions, relapse of symptoms, and increased issues of lost productivity for employers. Screening by primary care physicians (PCPs) can lead to the early identification of symptoms of abuse of alcohol and other substances and can result in better patient outcomes.

Screening for adults

Recognizing the importance of this opportunity, we’re encouraging our network physicians to observe National Alcohol Awareness Month® by screening all of their regularly scheduled adult and adolescent patients in the month of April for possible problems with alcohol.

The “CAGE” screener for adults is a simple four-question screening tool that can be easily administered. It has proven helpful in identifying alcohol usage patterns that may reflect problems with alcohol:

  1. Have you ever felt you should Cut down on your drinking?
  2. Have people Annoyed you by criticizing your drinking?
  3. Have you ever felt bad or Guilty about your drinking?
  4. Have you ever had a drink first thing in the morning as an “Eye-opener” to steady your nerves or get rid of a hangover?

One “yes” answer suggests a possible alcohol problem. If there is a “yes” answer to two or more questions, it is highly likely that a problem exists and referral to a Tufts Health Plan provider who specializes in alcohol or substance use disorder may be the next step.

Screening for adolescents

In addition, for screening adolescents for alcohol and drugs, we recommend the CRAFFT screener, which was developed at Children’s Hospital in Boston. (Reproduced with permission from the Center for Adolescent Substance Abuse Research, CeSAR, Children’s Hospital Boston.)

Research suggests that brief interventions from PCPs, including making a recommendation to cut back on drinking, is effective in improving clinical outcomes.